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Michigan's Conviction Integrity Unit, Cooley Innocence Project help free man after 32 years

Gilbert Poole Jr. walked out of a Michigan prison today after over three decades for a crime he didn't commit
Conviction Integrity Unit announces first exoneration
Posted at 7:23 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 07:07:50-04

LANSING, Mich. —

The Michigan Conviction Integrity Unit has been investigating claims of wrongful convictions in the state since 2019. Wednesday all that hard work is paying off with the unit’s very first exoneration.

Gilbert Poole Jr. spent the last three decades behind bars for murder.

Poole was convicted in 1989, based mainly on a bite mark found on the victim’s body.

Gilbert Poole Jr.

The WMU Cooley Law Innocence Project and the state's Conviction Integrity Unit have been working to get Poole’s conviction overturned.

On Wednesday, Poole became a free man.

On Wednesday, Poole became a free man.

“I didn’t think I was going to have this much support and for years I didn’t. But thank God he sent these guardian angels down here to work and get me out," Poole said.

This is the very first exoneration to come out of the state Conviction Integrity Unit since it was created back, and Attorney General Dana Nessel couldn’t be happier.

This is the very first exoneration to come out of the state Conviction Integrity Unit since it was created back, and Attorney General Dana Nessel couldn’t be happier.

“It is the most incredible feeling in the world to know that you have been able to deliver even just a little bit of justice to someone who has been denied justice for so many years," Nessel said.

Exonerations in the United States

Last year, 20 people were freed in Michigan and 84 in the total United States after new evidence found they’d been wrongly convicted.

Here's a look at the creation dates for Conviction Integrity Units from the National Registry of Exonerations:

More than 24,915 years lost to wrongful convictions

In Wayne County, the prosecutor's office has established its own Conviction Integrity Unit to handle cases in that region. The statewide unit handles all the other cases.

Right now, Nessel says she has a small team working diligently to help to balance the scales of justice.

“We have two investigators and two attorneys for basically full time for that unit and we have other people in the office that oversee it," said Nessel.

Michigan Attorney General's Conviction Integrity Unit

Nessel says establishing the unit was something she promised on the campaign trail and seeing the work make a difference in people's lives is encouraging.

“I’m so sorry for what’s happened to you but at least after all these years justice delayed was not justice denied," Nessel told Poole.

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